Writing From Your Queer Heart with Cooper Lee Bombardier

Explore new ways of thinking about your characters, and dig deep into your own identity, in this four-week class with writer, artist, performer and teacher Cooper Lee Bombardier.

Your Instructor: Cooper Lee Bombardier

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: April 12, 2018 - May 10, 2018

Enrollment: 16 students

Price: $350

Class Description

Poet Stanley Kunitz wrote that “the empty ones are those who do not suffer their selfhood.”

Writing From Your Queer Heart is geared toward writers of all levels and identities who want to explore ways of rendering marginalized experiences into razor-sharp creative writing. This four-week course—led by writer, artist, performer, and teacher Cooper Lee Bombardier—will provide you with ample opportunity to generate new writing wrung from the hard-won knowledges of your own life.

You will dig down through the basalt into the heart of your unique life experience, uncover the unsayable, journey toward your personal hinterlands, tickle the uncomfortable edges, and render this raw treasure into a short work of fiction or creative nonfiction.

Along the way, you'll examine ways to uncover the “so what” of our your stories, as well as ways to avoid cliché language and representation. You'll explore ways of rendering your own philosophical and ethical “truths,” while avoiding sounding didactic.

You'll consider audience and its effects on your writing, and you will engage in energetic, supportive, vigorous, and compassionate discussion with fellow students on topics such as writing issues, craft points, and cultivating a writing practice.

Finally, you'll discuss the ethical and personal considerations of using material from one's own life, talk about writing from marginalized experiences that are not our own, and how to delve past our own limitations while expanding our comfort zones.

What This Class Covers

Lecture One: Digging Down

For those of us of trans, queer, or LGBTQ experience, we know what it is like to have our stories marginalized, fetishized, and ignored; or else lumped together by dominant culture in totalizing ways which fail to account for the unique and singular experiences that compose our lives and purviews.

For now we will focus on digging down into the depths, finding the stories, images, moments, tones, metaphors, and words that give shape to what we know and have lived through. Prepare to cramp up your writing hand, because we will generate a lot of ideas here. We'll tease out a moment of personal significance and work with it, generating material that may be used in the final project, whether as a work of fiction or creative nonfiction.

Assignment One: Turning Point

Using the material generated from multiple class exercises, students will identify a moment after which nothing was the same, and write about this pivotal moment. Readings TBA in class.

Lecture Two: Saying the Unsayable

“What happened to the writer is not what matters,” writes author Vivian Gornick, “what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.”

We will dig beneath the facts of the moment you have chosen to write about, and find the elusive, perhaps uncomfortable “so what” of the story. We will explore showing compassion for the persona of the “I” in the story, and how to use self-implication to maintain equilibrium. We'll look at how image, tone, atmosphere, and emotion influence the prose and we'll delve into our “moment” using all six senses.

We will discuss heuristics, or mental shortcuts, that can arise when we write about a situation and how to unpack them in order to make the moment come alive for a reader. We will begin to shape the narrative arc of this significant moment, defining the before, during, and after.

Assignment Two: The Unsayable

Drilling down further on the moment of significance chosen in assignment one, students will look for the story beneath this story, to discover what meaning is to be made of the incidental facts of the circumstance, and to shape the before, during, and after. Reading assignments TBA in class.

Lecture Three: Finding the Language and Voice of YOU

We'll work on wordsmithing. We'll discuss language, word choice, syntax, dialogue, and the role of subcultural vernacular in our own creative writing. We will consider the concept of ostranenie or defamiliarization, and discuss how to avoid boring or alienating terminology. We will begin to cut and compress and refine and reduce the raw material down until every sentence drives the narrative forward toward the point.

Assignment Three: No Apologies

Using material generated in class exercises, students will write about identity (whatever that means to each individual) without having to explain, educate, apologize, or convince. Students will be challenged to write about identity without using common “identity” terms. Readings TBA in class.

Lecture Four: The Meat

Building on everything we’ve covered so far, we'll focus on the meat: the thing you've come to say, touching the gorgeous queer heart of the matter. You’ll put it all together. Cooper will be available through phone and/or email for hands-on instruction.

Assignment Four: Putting it All Together

Students will write a short story, memoir, or personal essay based on the material you've developed in this class.

      * Throughout the course, assignments will be critiqued and workshopped with both Cooper, and with fellow students.

Goals Of This Class

  • Engage in several writing exercises to generate raw material.
  • Hone personal experience from the anecdotal to larger meaning-making.
  • Experiment with writing for a generously imagined audience.
  • Explore the work of new & unfamiliar authors.
  • Discover ways to render queer/trans experience in surprising and fresh language.
  • Decide on our focus and use it to influence our readers emotional state.
  • Write a draft, get feedback, and share with others.
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